Japanese onomatopoeia

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Unlike our Portuguese language, onomatopoeia is very important in Japanese. They are used a lot, much more than in any other language.

Onomatopoeia can be written in either hiragana or katakana. They are also commonly used in informal phrases and everyday conversations. It is not considered childish or unusual to speak, but it is part of Japanese vocabulary and everyday life.

It is worth remembering that katakana is always used when we want to emphasize the sound of something. It is common, for example, that manga authors most often express sound using katakana, there is no rule for that.

Onomatopoeia in Japanese are divided into 3 categories, let's examine each one and see a list of each.


Giseigo (擬声語)

It refers to the sound that people and animals make.

Animal noises

Animal Kana Romaji
Bird ピチュピチュ Pichu pichu
Cat ニャン nyan
cow モーモー mōmō
Crow カーカー kākā
Dog ワンワン wan wan
duck がーがー ga- ga-
Frog ゲロゲロ gerogero
Monkey キャキャ kyakya
Pig ブーブー būbū

Other sounds

Sound Kana Romaji
Chewing むしゃむしゃ Musha musha
Bellyache ごろごろ Goro goro
Speak fast ペラペラ Pear pear
Heart beating ドキドキ Doki Doki
Baby crawling はいはい Hai hai
Staggering ふらふら Fura fura
Noisy steps ばたばた Knock Knock
Sneezing はくしゅん Hakushun
Open and close your mouth パクパク Paku Paku
Dragging feet ズルズル Zuru Zuru
Crowd Sound ガヤガヤ Gaya gaya
Jumping ぴょんぴょん Pyon pyon
Napping うとうと Uto uto
Clapping hands パチパチ Pachi Pachi
Yawning フワア Fuwaa
Running グルグル Guru Guru
Sobbing ひくひく Hiku hiku
Cough ごほごほ Goho goho
Blurred vision しょぼしょぼ Shobo shobo
Snoring belly ペコペコ Peko Peko
Eating ramen するずる Zuru Zuru
Making noise ゲラゲラ Gera gera

Giongo (擬音語)

Noises that are not covered by the giseigo. Sound effects, such as wind blowing, an explosion, or precipitation.

Action Noises

Action Kana Romaji
Explosion どん don
Winch きい kii
Spark ぴかぴか pika-pika
Heartbeat どきどき doki-doki
Knock on the door どんどん don-don
Silence しいん shin

Food sounds

Action Kana Romaji
Sizzle ピリピリ piri piri
Lick ペロペロ but but
Full stomach パンパン pan pan
Sip コグコグ kogu kogu
Chomp; Munch パクパク paku paku
Slurp ズーズー Zūzū
Swallow ごくごく gokugoku

Sounds of nature

Action Noise Romaji
Pouring rain ザーザー Zāzā
Rain パラパラ parapara
Wind ぴゅう pyuu
Heat かんかん kankan
Thunder ごろごろ gorogoro

Gitaigo (擬態語)

These are words that describe actions and emotions that do not necessarily make noise. They describe more abstract things like a facial expression or a feeling. (Gitaigo is not technically onomatopoeia but a type of mime made with words.

Feelings

Sound Kana Romaji
Fuming with rage いらいら wrath
Remoendo くよくよ kuyokuyo
Hesitant / tasteless うじうじ uji uji
Be angry プンプン Punpun
Impatience じりじり jirijiri

Qualities

Sound Kana Romaji
Noisy; rattle; hoarse ガラガラ garagara
Methodical きびきび kibikibi
Quickly どんどん dondon
abundant / ample タップリ Tappuri
Carefree ノウノウ Ninth

Actions

Sound Kana Romaji
Stare マジマジ Majimaji
Whisper; grumble ぶつぶつ Butsubutsu
Chat (especially old ladies) ぺちゃくちゃ Pechakucha
Shake; get excited ワクワク Wakuwaku
Smile / happy ニコニコ nikoniko
Isolated; grumble ポツリ Potsuri

Other Onomatopoeia

Sound Kana Romaji
Riled up イライラ Wrath Wrath
Laughing ほほほほ Hohoho
Idle ぶらぶら Burabura
Exhausted クタクタ Kuta kuta
Staring じろじろ Jiro jiro
Distracted うかうか Uka uka
Laughing ハハハ haha ha
Crying softly シクシク Shiku shiku
Crying loudly ギャギャ Gya gya
Acute pain きりきり Kirikiri
Giggling クスクス Kusu kusu
Laughing へへへ Hehehe
Laughing ヒヒヒヒ Hihihi
Laughing フフフフ Fufufufu

There are thousands of other onomatopoeia, an extensive list, but this is something that you will discover in your daily life and living with the Japanese.

You learned all onomatopoeia, prove it by taking a test, taking this quiz by clicking here.